Hundreds of demonstrators marked the start of the new Dáil session with a mass rally outside the gates of Leinster House.
Trade unions, community groups against cuts and lone protesters picketed side by side as TDs and Senators met for the first time since the three-month summer recess.
The families of Daniel McAnaspie and Danny Talbot – two teenagers who tragically died having been in care of the Health Service Executive (HSE) – were out in force to demand health chiefs take responsibility for its youngsters.
Sandra Lamb, Danny’s aunt, said the 18-year-old’s drug overdose could have been prevented.
“Danny and his mother Linda were failed by the HSE. He went from the cradle into the grave,” she added.
Members of the Children’s Mental Health Coalition earlier called on Government to put children’s mental health at the top of their “to do” list for the new Dáil term.
Joe Reilly, from Tallaght, said he was let down by the justice system when his teenage son Kevin was stabbed to death in 1992 and that the Government was letting the country down now.
“We put a Government in here to run the country and as far as I can see they have wasted more money on advisors and the banks,” he said.
A group of An Post workers delivered a large comical postcard to the Dáil with a cartoon image of finance minister Brian Lenihan reading the book DIY Banking For Beginners and Taoiseach Brian Cowen carrying a box of financial instruments, including an axe, hammer and saw.
Campaigners carried posters and wore T-shirts with the slogans “N.Ama/Enema Give The Government A Large One” and “Two Brians No Brain”.
Elsewhere, animal rights and anti-fox hunting campaigners, pro-life and anti-civil partnership protesters, anti-war activists and a Co Kildare woman who believes the Government is spraying residents across the country with chemical and biological agents gathered support at the gates of Leinster House.
They were later among almost 1,500 people who staged a mass protest, led by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).
Congress president Jack O’Connor told the crowd it joined workers all over Europe protesting against austerity policies which were placing the interests of bankers over citizens.
He accused the Government of unleashing the most sustained assault on working people and those who depended most on public services, in living memory.
“Savage cutbacks have been inflicted on the most vulnerable in the community accompanied by pay and pension cuts,” said Mr O’Connor.
“Simultaneously, hundreds of thousands have been condemned to hopelessness as unemployment has been cynically and deliberately allowed to escalate relentlessly, in order to drive down wage costs in the hope of bringing about recovery through export-led growth.
“Now, two miserable years on, the evidence of the failure of this cruel strategy is there for all to see.
“Despite record growth in exports, the economy is still declining, businesses are still closing and people are still losing their jobs.”